Analysis of the accidents in the Ministry's 1996 study revealed a wide variety of immediate causes (collisions, shifting loads, tip-overs), but generally the same root cause: the lack of an effective safety program. Workers were poorly trained; supervision was inadequate; and the work and workplace were not organized with safety in mind. The result was unsafe work practices that made an accident almost inevitable. The development and implementation of a program to address these problems is an obvious first step towards improving powered-lift-truck safety.
While it may be tempting to see truck operators as responsible for accidents and thus better training for them as the way to safe lift truck operations, it is important to recognize that training, although essential, will not be enough to eliminate accidents. To be most effective, operator training should be part of a larger comprehensive powered-lift-truck safety program. This program should include the following elements:
Although the employer is responsible for implementation of the program, it will likely be more effective if all the workplace parties are involved in its development. The joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, where there is one, along with supervisors and workers should all be involved not only in the development of rules and procedures to prevent injuries, but in identifying the causes of accidents and "near misses", and the monitoring of lift-truck-safety improvements.
Clause 25(2)(d) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires an employer to "acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work… ." This means that the employer at a workplace where there is a powered lift truck must identify all hazards associated with the truck as it used in the workplace. In practical terms, the following measures and procedures should be carried out:
Both workers and supervisors should be involved in the hazard identification process. It should include a review of information provided by the lift truck's manufacturer, an analysis of work processes and a consideration of accident and injury data. If there is a concern that the workplace does not have sufficient expertise, advice should be sought from the relevant safe workplace association or other safety specialists.
Clause 25(2)(a) of the OHSA places an obligation on an employer to "provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker". Regulation 851 is more specific and states that a lifting device is only to be operated by a competent person. "Competent person" is defined by the OHSA as someone who:
An employer has a clear duty to establish the competence of the worker who is to operate a powered lift truck, either through training or in some other way. What this entails in practice is explained in Section 4 of this Guideline. Through training an operator should learn: the fundamentals of powered lift trucks, how environmental conditions can affect lift-truck performance, basic lift-truck operating skills, and the rules and practices for safe lift-truck operation. The training should include practice sessions, under the supervision of a qualified trainer, on load handling, maneuvering, travelling, stopping, and starting. Appendix III is an outline of the knowledge and skills (in terms of learning outcomes) that a truck operator should acquire through a successful training program. The Canadian Standards Association also has a training standard (Industrial Lift Truck Operator Training B335-94, [updated to B335-04]), which may be useful in designing or evaluating training programs. (View CSA standards)
In addition to ensuring that the operator of a powered lift truck is appropriately trained, an employer has a responsibility to those whose work in the vicinity of a lift truck may place them at risk. The following measures are suggested:
Clause 25(2)(c) of the OHSA states that an employer must appoint a competent person as a supervisor. For powered lift truck operations, this means someone who, through training and experience, knows the hazards associated with: the type of lift truck being used, the loads being handled and the environment in which the truck will be operated. A competent supervisor must also be able to identify unsafe acts and conditions and implement corrective measures. Employers, for their part, should encourage supervisors to be vigilant in identifying hazardous situations and correcting them immediately when they are detected.
As a minimum, employers should ensure that the following existing regulatory requirements are complied with:
In addition to the safe operating procedures above, which apply to all workplaces, a second set of rules and safe operating procedures should be developed and implemented to address hazards that are specific to the workplace where the lift truck is to be used.
The operating procedures should include a truck inspection to be carried out at the beginning of the truck operator's shift. A checklist, to facilitate this pre-shift inspection, should be developed. It should cover fork condition and wear; tire condition and pressure; fluid and fuel levels; battery condition and electrolyte levels; steering, brake, and limit switch operation; and cleanliness. The operator should also examine the chains and mast; check for damage or leaks; and inspect the condition of the lift mechanism. Any defects should be reported to the operator's supervisor.
The OHSA, in clause 25(1)(b), places a general duty on employers to ensure that equipment is maintained in good condition. When the equipment is a lifting device, clause 51(1)(a) of Regulation 851 states that it must be constructed and equipped in a way to adequately ensure the safety of all workers; clause 51(1)(b) deals with its lifting capacity. The only way to ensure these requirements are being met is through a periodic inspection and, where necessary, repair and maintenance of the equipment (powered lift truck). The repair and maintenance should focus on worker safety, not just for the truck's load-handling characteristics, but for all aspects of the truck's operations. The points that should be covered in a regular powered-lift-truck inspection are listed in Appendix IV. Repair and maintenance are more fully discussed in Section 5 of this Guideline.
Poor workplace design can contribute to accidents and injuries. Employers should ensure that the following measures are taken as a minimum:
It is important to develop criteria for the selection of trucks for use in a particular workplace. Different trucks are designed and manufactured to operate in different work environments and the hazards associated with the use of a specific powered lift truck will depend on its type, make, and model. Steps must therefore be taken to ensure that the fire hazard designation, carrying capacity, reach capabilities and the features of the lift truck selected to do a job are suitable for the types of loads to be handled, the terrain over which loads will be carried, the atmospheric conditions in the workplace and the design of the workplace. Gas-, petrol- or diesel-powered lift trucks should not be used where explosive concentrations of combustible dusts, flammable gases or flammable vapours may be present or in areas where exhaust gases may accumulate creating a hazard of carbon monoxide poisoning, for example.
To protect operators and other workers, every lift truck should have clearly displayed information showing the maximum rated load and the variation of the rated safe load capacity with the reach of the equipment. If a truck has been modified, the information should be revised to reflect new load ratings. Every truck should also be equipped with the following: